Mid-17th century France: the court of Louis XIV is split between religious zealots loyal to his pious mother, and libertines who embrace the Sun King's divine decadence. Louis (Magimel) decrees a new palace be built on the marshlands of Versailles. He glories in art, music, theatre and dance. He asserts his divine right to rule by taking centre stage in extravagant ballets. His closest allies are the playwright Molière (Karyo) and the court composer Lully (Terral). A bisexual Florentine with an ego the size of France, Lully, above all, enjoys the King's ear and scandalises the old order. Rossellini illuminated this period in the exemplary The Rise to Power of Louis XIV back in 1966. Corbiau's melodrama owes more to the baroque schlock school of Amadeus and his own Farinelli: overheated mise-en-scène, theatrical performances, lurid intrigue. Sounds fun, I know, but in the event this passably lavish hysterical history tour rarely fleshes out its innuendos. Magimel steals the acting honours and Karyo earns a little sympathy for Molière, but Terral is a disappointingly pallid Lully. ('Freely inspired' by the book Lully ou le musicien du soleil by Philippe Beaussant.) TCh.
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